Mumbai: Ramzan nights on Mohammed Ali Road
Jaggery jalebis, nalli nihari and chicken hakim disappear from counters as crowds return to Mohammad Ali Road in Mumbai after two years
Ramzan nights on Mohammed Ali Road in Mumbai acquire a life of their own. People jostle with friends and families and disappear into the crowd. The delighted squeals of young girls enjoying seekh kebaband their chatter, burqa clad women busy shopping, old women holding the hands of their grandchildren…Each night during Ramzan witnesses millions of stories in the lane of Mohammed Ali Road and Bhendi Bazar next to the iconic Minara Masjid.
In Ramzan, the month of fasting for Muslims, after Maghrib (evening prayers) Mohammad Ali Road starts seeing footfall of pulsating people to restaurants, food stalls and sweet shops.
Sana Shaikh from Byculla said, "Due to the pandemic lanes and bylanes near Minara Masjid had been deserted and wore a desolate look in the last two years. We are glad that Ramzan life is back. Nobody is complaining about the maddening crowd at the eateries. But then it's not just about the food but it's also about togetherness. Mohammad Ali Road embraces everyone, people of all faiths and tourists from across the world.”
Bonding and sharing happiness are what Ramzan is all about besides the fasting and piety. People ensure that nobody goes hungry. Food packets are served to those who cannot afford to buy food for Ifatri (after breaking fast).The Sehari (morning food before fasting) is also served to many.
Maroof Mehboob Ali, owner of National Dairy and Sweets, recalls, “My grandfather popularly known as Najju Seth served Malpua–a delicacy enjoyed by everyone. In the month of Ramzan, I personally supervise making malpuas for food lovers. It's not about food but all about culture”.
Established in 1923 by Abdul Karim, the Noor Mohammadi Hotel now run by the next generation Rashid Karim said,"During the pandemic life had changed. I had never seen Mohammad Ali Road deserted before. However, this year has revived the festive atmosphere traditionally seen here and people are coming from not only Gujarat but also from Indore and Kashmir to see nights come alive on Mohammed Ali Road."
Patronised by the likes of Sharad Pawar, Sanjay Dutt, Supriya Sule, Adnan Sami , Salman Khan and Daler Mehndi, M F Husain, a regular, once drew a sketch on the walls to show his love for the Noor Mohammadi restaurant. Walking in the lanes of Bhendi Bazar, Mohammad Ali Road and Minara Masjid energises the body and the mind.Shahid Ansari from Mumbra remembers, visiting the road with his grandfather to eat firani (kheer pudding) and Malpua ( pancakes). Now I come with my children and wife. During the last 10-days shopping at Bhendi Bazar and Mohammed Ali Road revived old and fond memories”.
Another popular restaurant is Chinese-N-Grill. The manager Sarwar Khan said, "This year since people have returned to Mohammed Ali Road, we have introduced different delicacies along with old favourites like Nalli Nihari, Bheja Gurda and mutton chop.
Sagar Vaghela accompanying a friend Mohammed Mohsin exclaims, "I had last come here years before with my college friends to experience Ramzan nights on Mohammed Ali Road and Bhendi Bazar. People walk so close to each other but interestingly nobody even accidentally touches the other.”
"This time I took my son to show the heaving but orderly crowd enjoying good food. And he slurped on chicken hakim and jalebis from Burhanpur," he added with a chuckle.
Shabbir's Tawakkal Sweets owner Moayyad Mithaiwala is a happy man. Watching the stream of people he says with satisfaction, “we are making up for the two lost years”.
(This was first published in National Herald on Sunday)